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The Theatre Royal, New Road, Brighton, East Sussex

Brighton's Theatres Index

The Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2009 - Courtesy Stephen Ashby.

Above - The Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2009 - Courtesy Stephen Ashby.

 

A programme for the pantomime 'Little Red Riding Hood' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 1892 / 1893. -  Click to see the entire programme enlarged. The Theatre Royal, Brighton has a long and illustrious history, the Theatre that we know today was originally granted Royal Assent by the Prince of Wales and constructed in just 10 months from the summer of 1806. The Theatre opened on Saturday the 27th of June 1807 with a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet with the famous Drury Lane actor Charles Kemble in the lead role.

Right - A programme for the pantomime 'Little Red Riding Hood' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 1892 / 1893. In the cast were Lyddie Edmonds, Constance Moxon, Michael Dwyer, G. H. Chirgwin, Cecil Webb, Lizzie Ruggles, Florence Lynn, Stratton Mills, Nellie Christie, J. C. Piddock, Ela Stanford, Wal Robbins, Dolph Rowella, Louie Coote, Edith Burlington, Constance Norris, Clara Chirgwin, Rose Heilbron, Edith Neill, Lillie Leigh, And Maude Vernon. - Click to see the entire programme enlarged.

Before this however, there was another Theatre in Brighton with the 'Royal' name, this was in Duke Street and was the first Theatre to be built in Brighton. The license for this Theatre was transferred to the present New Road Theatre when the Duke Street one was bought by Hewitt Cobb and demolished, Hobb had the New Road Theatre built to replace it in 1806.

The Theatre has had many Royal visitors over the years including King William IV's sister, Princess Augusta, in 1836, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1845, the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V, and Queen Mary, in 1893, and Queen Elizabeth II, who first visited the Theatre in 1959 and has done so on several subsequent occasions.

 

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken from the stage in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken from the stage in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

The foyer of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2011 - Courtesy B.F. The Theatre Royal has had many changes of owner and changes of structure over the decades but despite this there are parts of the building which still date back to its 1806 beginning.

Left - The foyer of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2011 - Courtesy B.F.

The biggest change however, was in 1866 when the respected Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps was brought in to make significant changes to the building. The reconstruction was carried out by Mr. Bland, who along with the architect, increased the height of the building and added a glazed extension to the first floor. At the same time Phipps completely restructured the auditorium to his own designs and modernised the stage. The Theatre reopened on Monday the 15th of October 1866 with a production of the comedy 'Society', and the burlesque 'Lucia di Lammermoor'.

 

Four interesting posters from the Theatre Royal, Brighton's illustrious history, dating, in order, from 1866, 1871, 1941, and 1913, which are displayed in the Theatre and were photographed by Brent Fernandez in 2011.

Above - Four interesting posters from the Theatre Royal, Brighton's illustrious history, dating, in order, from 1866, 1871, 1941, and 1913, which are displayed in the Theatre and were photographed by Brent Fernandez in 2011.

 

The New Theatre Royal, Brighton - From the ERA, July 1st 1866

This week the work of reconstructing the Theatre Royal, New-road, has begun in earnest. The gutting of the interior is pretty well accomplished, and the building roofless, and thenceforward operations are intended to be carried on with energy and determination sufficient to open the new house, if possible, in the last week of September.

The late arrangements of the interior will be entirely removed, and the whole "auditorium" will be reconstructed upon a plan which appears to possess considerable excellence. The width of the "house" throughout will be increased by the addition of two passages on either side of the main walls, and which are now used for entrances to the pit, gallery, and stage. The new pit will accommodate above 500 persons, allowing each person more room than formed the basis of the estimate made for the late house in this section.

In front of the pit will be two rows of orchestra stalls. There will be three tiers of seats in the new house. The first tier will comprise the dress circle and balcony stalls, and will be approached by a separate entrance and staircase. Attached to its corridors will be saloons and retiring and refreshment rooms. The upper boxes, or second tier, will likewise have a separate entrance and staircase, a continuation of which will lead to the amphitheatre (or third tier), in front of the gallery. The second tier corridor will also have its saloon and retiring and refreshment rooms, similar to those on the first tier. Behind the Amphitheatre will be the gallery, sufficient to hold from 600 to 700 persons, and having its separate stone staircase. Besides these general divisions, arrangements are made for ten private boxes. The entire capacity of the auditorium is for about 2,000 persons.

The proscenium opening will be thirty feet wide. The height from the pit floor to the centre of the ceiling will be about forty-two feet. So far as we can gather, the comfort of the audience in every department has been well studied. For instance, the dress circle and stalls are intended to be furnished with spacious arm chairs. From the peculiar form of the plan, we believe there will not be one seat with its back to the side of the house; but every auditor will have a good and a front view of the stage. The iron columns supporting the box tiers are intended to recede on the dress circle level, so that there will be two rows of stalls with an uninterruptedly clear view. The upper box tier will also be thrown back, thereby improving not only the appearance of the house but affording more scope of view.

Behind the curtain large scene docks, painting galleries, dressing rooms, &c., &c., are already in course of construction.

The architect intrusted with this important work is Mr. C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., of 48, Cornhill, London, E.C., and Bath, under whose direction the new Theatres of Bath, Nottingham, and South Shields have lately been erected. The contract has been taken by Mr. David Bland, of London, already favourably known here for excellence of work and quickness of construction.

We shall view the progress of the reconstruction with much interest, and meanwhile may be allowed to commend the enterprise of Mr. H. Nye Chart for entering upon these extended improvements directly he had acquired complete possession of the property. Whether the new house be perfectly satisfactory or not, it can hardly fail to be a great advance upon its predecessor.

The above article was first published in the ERA, 1st July 1866.

 

The Theatre actually reopened on Monday the 15th of October 1866, a few weeks after the suggested date in the article above, with a production of the comedy 'Society', and the burlesque 'Lucia di Lammermoor'.

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.Phipps' new auditorium was built on four levels, Stalls and three balconies, all supported by iron columns which would have greatly affected the sight Lines in the Theatre from some seats. The new auditorium was decorated in purple, cream and buff.

Left - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

The ERA reported on the changes and the Theatre's reopening in their 21st of October 1866 edition saying: 'The Theatre Royal - (Sole Proprietor and Manager, Mr. H. Nye Chart - The first season under the new regime commenced on Monday night, and Mr. Chart has truly given to Brighton a really commodious and magnificent Theatre, the handsomest in the Kingdom, and one which is inferior in size to ten only out of the twenty-seven which are licensed in the Metropolis.

In general appearance it reminds one of the Adelphi, but will seat between 300 and 400 more than that establishment, being a little larger in this respect than the Haymarket. The dimensions, or rather the capabilities, of the house are as follows: - Orchestral stalls, 50; private boxes, 65; dress circle, 175; boxes, 200; pit, 610; amphitheatre, 100; and gallery, 700. These seats, numbered off by measurement, allowing sufficient space for the most gigantic, even in these days of "fashionable aniplitude," give accommodation for 1,900 persons, and fully this number patronised Mr. Chart on his opening night...

 

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson....The auditorium is most tastefully decorated and very conveniently arranged, and from every seat in the house a complete view of the stage may be obtained. The proscenium opening, which is formed by a double range of clustered columns in Caen stone, has been widened to the extent of 8ft., being now 30ft. in width, and nearly of an equal height, necessitating entirely new scenery; and a very beautiful new act-drop, which has also been rendered necessary, has been painted by Mr. G. Gordon, of the Bath and Bristol Theatres. It represents an Italian Water Party in the Fifteenth Century, and the figures were painted by Mr. W. Harford, of Bristol.

Right - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

New dressing-rooms, with scene docks, painting gallery, &c,, have been erected; all the latest improvements in machinery introduced by Mr. Stoakes. The float lights are of novel construction, this being the first instance of their use in England. This float, which, together with the sun burner, has been manufactured by Messrs. Strode and Co., Gas Engineers, of London, consists of a row of Argand burners, with the light reversed, and burning downwards; all the combustion is drawn away through an iron tube under the stage, and communicating with a brick flue, running up by the proscenium columns. The reflector is not more than six inches above the stage; the audience thus lose the unpleasant screen between them and the scene, and the performer is ensured perfect security from the danger of ignition, as a piece of gauze may be placed over the lights without even singeing it...

 

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken from the stage in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken from the stage in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

...The general lighting of the house is effected by means of a large gas sun-burner in the centre of the ceiling, over which a large ventilating shaft carries off not only the combustion of the gas, but the hot air from the whole of the auditorium, the only other lights being a few bracket burners at the extreme back of the various tiers; the old gaseliers, by which the house was formerly lighted and the view obstructed, being entirely done away with...

The stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken from the auditorium in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

Above - The stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken from the auditorium in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

...The architect, Mr. Phipps, and the contractor, Mr. Bland, together with Mr. Tasker, who has superintended the entire reconstruction of the building, were called for at the end of an address, which Mr. Chart delivered, and in which he acknowledged the services of those gentlemen. The reception which was given to the worthy Proprietor was one which he might justly be proud of, the applause being long, loud, and sincere; and the cheers which greeted the old members of the company must have been extremely gratifying. These were Miss Nelly Rollason, Mrs. and Miss Bishop, Mr. L. Nanton, Mr. R. Soutar, Mr. H, Cox, and Mr. H. Crouch, all of whom Brighton playgoers rejoice to see return....

The Stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

Above - The Stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

...The pieces produced were that very much over-praised comedy, Society, and the burlesque of Lucia di Lammermoor. In such a comedy, and on such an occasion, it would be unfair to speak of the merits of the company. With regard to the first, the author has done nothing for the actor; while, with reference to the latter, a first performance ought never to be dealt with critically; but when a company is new to each other, in a new house, with all the discomforts of an unfinished building, for such is the case "behind the curtain," a notice of the entertainment is absolutely out of the question. They have, however, created a favourable impression.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 21st of October 1866.

 

The Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2009 - Courtesy Stephen Ashby. The Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2009 - Courtesy Stephen Ashby.

Above - Two views of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2009 - Courtesy Stephen Ashby.

 

Programme for 'The Desert Song' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in June 1947.The Theatre Royal, Brighton reopened on Monday the 15th of October 1866 with a production of the comedy 'Society', and the burlesque 'Lucia di Lammermoor'. However, after the disaster at the Ring Theatre in Vienna in 1881 when over 600 people were killed in a fire it was found that the changes Phipps had introduced to the Theatre Royal were far from satisfactory regarding the safety of its audiences. The Theatre was subsequently altered to include new exits and safety features in 1882.

Right - A Programme for 'The Desert Song' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in June 1947.

The ERA reported on the changes in their 22nd of July 1882 edition saying: 'When Mr C. J. Phipps erected this house in 1866, he failed, as theatrical architects almost invariably have failed, to secure means for a rapid exit of the audience in case of fire or panic; and the occurrence of the horrible catastrophe at the Ring Theatre, Vienna, and also similar calamities nearer home, having called the attention of the authorities to the necessity of providing satisfactory ways of egress for the audiences attending places of entertainment, a communication was made by the town authorities to Mrs Chart and others on the subject, inviting their co-operation to secure the object in view.

 

The stage house of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken by Tim Lawson in 2003.It is scarcely necessary to say that Mrs Chart at once gave her ready consent to the inspection of the theatre, and, acting upon the counsel offered, combined with her own practical experience, she has succeeded in accomplishing the very arduous but necessary task of insuring the safety of the public from dangers arising from panic or fire.

Right - The stage house of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken by Tim Lawson in 2003.

From its opening the Brighton Theatre has been singularly free from panic. On one occasion, some years since, an occurrence took place, which at one time appeared calculated to lead to most serious results. It was during the run of the annual Christmas pantomime. The transformation scene was just about to be unfolded, when the bags in which the lime-light gas was then stored, burst, carrying away a portion of the roof, and seriously injuring the man working the light. Panic prevailed on the stage, and the curtain was promptly run down. The report caused great consternation in the house, but Mrs Chart, with great presence of mind, rushed before the curtain, and succeeded in allaying the very natural excitement caused by the mishap. The presentation of the transformation scene was entirely out of the question, for the ladies of the ballet had all fainted from fright, the first scene of the harlequinado was run on, and the ready-witted clown, Martini, tumbled in, and kept the fun going at a furious rate, and panic was averted.

 

The Stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim LawsonSince that time, at considerable expense, two holders have been provided for the generation of the lime-light gas, and these are placed outside the premises, communicating with the lanterns by a service of pipes, so that all danger under this head is now avoided.

Left - The Stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

The absence of any evil results from panic, however, is no argument against making the best provision possible against its occurrence, and Mrs Chart promptly complied with the invitation of the town authorities, and from the various alterations and improvements recently made, the object sought seems to have been accomplished in the most complete and satisfactory way. Mrs Chart has had the good sense, notwithstanding her own practical acquaintance with the whole subject, to call to her assistance men who are thoroughly conversant with the difficulties to he surmounted, and the result has been that every possible preventive to the spread of fire has been supplied, and in addition ample modes of egress from all parts of the house have been secured - a most important feature, as the greatest loss of life too often occurs through the neglect of this provision.

 

The Stage door and the very restricted Dock Door of the Theatre Royal, Brighton - Photo Courtesy Stephen Ashby January 2007.On an examination of the premises it was found that the exits from the basement of the auditorium were deficient. This floor includes orchestra, stalls, pit stalls, and pit, and accommodates between five and six hundred persons. The exits originally existing were only three; they have now been increased to six, two of which would, without incurring a great amount of crushing, enable the audience to leave in a very few minutes. It is in this part of the house that the most important improvements have been effected.

Left - The Stage door and the very restricted Dock Door of the Theatre Royal, Brighton - Photo Courtesy Stephen Ashby, January 2007.

Entering by the stage door, we find that the passage has been relaid with concrete, and is now rendered perfectly fireproof.

Inside the Stage Door of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.Right - Inside the Stage Door of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

Getting past the door-keeper's box, we discover a new 5ft. doorway, furnished with sliding doors running into the wall, affording sufficient provision for the exit of all the occupants of the pit stalls in a very few minutes.

 

Some of the original wooden supporting beams in the Grid of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.The floor of the house is communicated with by a few strong and wide steps, which take the place, by the way, of some portion of the seating accommodation. Close by is exit No. 2, a short flight of stairs, which also communicates with the stage entrance. The third exit is provided by the ordinary pit entrance, where the doors have all been made to open outwards, and are fastened with simple bolts, with the use of which every one is acquainted. The next exit (No. 4) is the transfer door, which can be flung open at a moment's notice, and, the pay door for the boxes being immediately available, communication is at once secured with the street.

Left - Some of the original wooden supporting beams in the Grid of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

The main pit exit is, however, provided by a most desirable improvement. At the rear of the pit, a partition formerly stood, separating it from the vestibule. This partition has been removed, and a pair of handsome folding doors, opening outwards, has been erected in its place. It is glazed with stained glass, and has on the outer site in the centre of the panellings the monogram of the proprietress " H.N.C." In case of panic or fire these doors may be quickly opened, the two bolts being of the most simple character. Two men are specially told off to open these doors should an emergency arise. The great advantage gained by this improvement is that it brings the audience to within a few feet of the exterior of the house instantaneously, and the width of the exit appears to be fully capable of meeting any demands likely to be made upon it. This forms the fifth exit. The remaining one is devoted to the occupants of the orchestra stalls, communicating by a short staircase with the dress circle tier passages...

The Stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

Above - The Stage of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

...There are other advantages incidentally secured by the additions made. The sliding door in the stage entrance will be a means for most effectually ventilating the basement of the house, a desideratum during the summer performances. It should be added, too, that all the pit seats have been securely fitted with iron fastenings to the floor, to prevent danger in case of a great crush. On the dress circle tier numerous improvements have been effected. The inner wall of the staircase has been provided with a substantial rail, which will be of considerable service in the event of a crush. At the rear of the dress circle saloon Mrs Chart some time since erected a smoking box upon the balcony. The door leading to this was subject to the disadvantage of opening inwards. These doors have now been removed, and at each side, close to the refreshment bar, two handsome folding doors have been placed. These lead to a short lobby, and a second door, opening on weights like a window, can be instantly thrown up and access gained to the balcony. In the cosy little rustic smoking nook there is a convenient opening left, by which the balconies of the neighbouring houses could be reached...

The Grid of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson

Above and Below Left - The Grid of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson. Note the early wooden flying windlasses still in place, very few of these still exist in Theatres today. Some more photographs of this early kind of flying system, in the grid of the former Comedy Theatre, now the Harold Pinter Theatre, in London, can be seen here.

 

The Grid of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson...The dress-circle is provided altogether with four modes of egress - the one just mentioned, the ordinary entrance, at the stage end a communication can be effected with the stage entrance, and, on the opposite side, a staircase to the basement, which has been described, affords a speedy means of leaving the house. On the box tier are three exits - the ordinary entrance, and the two side doors at the stage end leading to the passages before mentioned. The seat backs here have also been securely fastened. The upper tier is devoted to the amphitheatre and the gallery. The former has two exits, and the latter is amply provided for by the old fireproof staircase. Rails have been fitted on both sides of this, and the gas fittings have been altered in such a manner that they cannot be interfered with by any one except the gasman of the house.

These alterations, it will be seen, are mainly intended to prevent the direful results which follow from panic, arising from whatever cause it may, and from the details given it will be seen that they are calculated to prove most effectual. The great danger, however, to an establishment of this description of course arises from fire. The modern drama requires brilliant effects, in which lime-light and gas play a prominent part, and this, too, amongst the most inflammable material. Mrs Chart has, therefore, devoted great attention to this vital matter, and has had the practical aid of Fire Superintendent Gibbs, of the Police Fire Brigade, in organising the various details. Every minute detail appears to have been provided for. On the outer wall, close to the stage entrance, are hung fire buckets ready filled, with ladder, available for instant use; and immediately within the door, close to the prompter's box, is hung two lengths of hose, sufficient to cover the whole stage, with a hydrant close by, and a portable hand pump and hose, capable of being instantly carried to any point. Here, too, we find suspended blankets, always kept wet, with which to envelope any unfortunate actress whose dress may have ignited. Here, also, the gas connections are controlled by taps, and in a few seconds all the gas in that part of the house "behind the scenes" can be turned off, as well as the great sunburner in the centre of the roof.

 

The Fly floor of the Theatre Royal in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.Programme for 'Twinkle' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in August 1945.On the stage itself, every light is protected by wirework, and the footlights have the extra addition of a brass rail, which precludes any chance of dresses, &c., coming in contact.

Left - A Programme for 'Twinkle' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in August 1945.

In the "flies," that mysterious part of the house, where one encounters ropes ad infinitum, and where in the hurry and bustle the greatest danger manifestly exists, due care has been taken, and a portable pump, with hose, is ready at hand. Here, also, we find a pair of buckets full of water, with a mop immersed, for use in case any rope or scene should be found to be smouldering, and a dash of water by the mop's aid might be effectual in stopping what might lead to a serious conflagration. Upon the "flies," in the paint-room, wardrobe, and all the dressing-rooms, green-room, &c., all the lights have been screened by wire guards of a most substantial make, and at various points buckets ready filled are placed in readiness.

Right - The Fly floor of the Theatre Royal in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

 

Programme for 'Charley's Aunt' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in July 1947.Outside the house, proper, and close to the wide passage which leads to the Colonnade, are the property man's room, and rooms devoted to the storage of scenes and numerous properties. These are, of course, of the most inflammable nature, and consequently extra care had to be taken at this point. Every night hose is attached to a hydrant in the centre of the passage, and run out ready for immediate use, its length enabling the whole interior to be played upon, thus bringing two hydrants immediately at work. The passage also affords a ready exit for those professionally engaged in the house. Attendants at the theatre of late may have noticed the placing of large lamps at various points, having the appearance of signal lights. These are fed with oil, and are placed at various points of vantage, in order to secure the safety of the public in case of the sudden extinguishing of the gas, which, however, is a contingency not likely to occur, as the house is provided with three separate meters.

Right - A Programme for 'Charley's Aunt' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in July 1947.

 

The Flies at the Theatre Royal in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.The permanent staff of the establishment have been organised as a fire brigade, and each member has allotted to him a particular duty. Twice weekly, under Superintendent Gibbs, the whole staff undergoes drill, and already the celerity with which the work is taken in hand is surprising, considering the short time they have been under instruction. A few days ago, the alarm was given as for an outbreak of fire in the dress circle, and the time taken was slightly over a minute for the communications with the hydrants - inside and outside - to be made, and the hose run out ready for play.

Left - The Flies at the Theatre Royal in a photograph taken in 2003 - Courtesy Tim Lawson.

The details of the various arrangements made appear to be as fully complete as it is possible to make them, and everything has been done by Mrs Chart to give effect to the improvements made to her by the town authorities. The improvements will, we hear, be inspected by the Mayor, the Watch Committee, and other members of the Corporation at an early date, and should convince them that the dangers attendant upon large public assemblies in the case of fire or panic have been reduced to a minimum so far as the Brighton Theatre is concerned.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 22nd of July 1882.

 

The stage house of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken by Tim Lawson in 2003.In 1894 the exterior of the Theatre was remodeled and the facade was rebuilt by C. E. Clayton using simple red brick and some dressing with stone.

In 1927 the auditorium was remodeled again, this time by Sprague and Barton, who changed the plasterwork almost completely to a French neo-classical arrangement, destroying all of Phipps' work except the Proscenium Frieze.

Right - The stage house of the Theatre Royal, Brighton in a photograph taken by Tim Lawson in 2003.

The Theatre Royal Brighton has survived both World Wars unscathed and in 1999 was refurbished again, this time by Jaques Muir & Partners.

I have been told that the present House Tabs in the Theatre may have come from the former Essoldo Cinema in Brighton which closed as a Cinema in 1964, but I have also been informed by Paul Aspinall, who works at the Theatre, and has done a lot of research on the building, that according to the minutes of the company of Theatre Royal Brighton Ltd on 11th March 1920, a number of items were purchased from the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow, namely: 1 pair house tabs and pelmets (red velvet), 4 box curtains, orchestra rail curtains, 10 pairs of exit door curtains, curtains over 2 long windows, 10 lamp brackets, 20 bentwood chairs, and 6 optic stands. However whether these are the Tabs which are still in use at the Theatre is still uncertain. If you can clear this up please Contact me.

The Theatre Royal, Brighton today has a capacity of 966 and is Brighton's main touring house. The Theatre Royal is Grade II Listed and is currently run by the Ambassador Theatre Group. You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.

Archive Newspaper reports for this Theatre were kindly collated and sent in for inclusion by B.F. The wonderful B&W photographs by Tim Lawson, who works at the Theatre, were taken during the Theatre's dark period in 2003 and kindly sent in for inclusion on the site by him in 2012, with the kind permission of the management of the Theatre Royal Brighton.

 

A Seating Plan for the Brighton Theatre Royal from a Kelley's Directory of 1934 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen who says: ' above the second circle is the unreserved gallery.'

Above - A Seating Plan for the Brighton Theatre Royal from a Kelley's Directory of 1934 - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen who says: ' above the second circle is the unreserved gallery.'

 

Ray Girling's early Photographs of the Lighting Installation at the Theatre Royal, Brighton - With text by Stephen Holroyd

The following photographs are from the Ray Girling collection which Stephen Holroyd has kindly sent in for use on the site, accompanied by some of his notes on the images. The originals of these photographs have now been donated to the Museum Services.

George Andrews in 1950Stephen Holroyd says: 'This is George Andrews in 1950. Ray stated that this photograph is of the made up board by Siemens and others, it is on the Pros wall just outside the window, between the old prompt desk and the ladder to the PS Perches.

I disagree, only because George used to say that the gas control for the house lights was placed in this area and I suspect that in this photograph, you see George at the original electric Houselight dimmers. You will see Temp boards in place where they were always placed when I was at the Royal just under the window to the ‘board’ room (Major room which may have been new in 1950.)
Temp boards were also placed above that window, as you will see in the photographs the management had taken with Major, before the Grand master installation was complete but the new wiring, the trunking of which you see in this photograph behind George under the window was being installed and the rig was complete. The other interesting item is the temp boards. They would have belonged to H.M. Tenants because Tenants' Strand 6 way temp boards were always being used to supplement the 119 way Grand master. Major’s Temps are above that area under the lower fly floor on a scaffolding floor. The photograph of course is posed and taken by a local photographer by the T. R. Ltd for the newspaper. The date may not be 1950 either.

 

THE NEW INSTALLATION

The House Rig at the Theatre Royal, BrightonHere is a photograph taken on the same day featuring the new house rig. This rig stayed the same until 1971 when we nicked 8 patt 50a pageants with spill rings and 9 patt 76 ac ac’s.

When ever a Tennant show came in (almost all shows were H. M. Tennants) we would supplement the 12 Major profiles with 3 Patt 2s on either side of the Major profiles on the gallery front.

The floats were 4 colour and 3 section units PS/CS/OP requiring 12 dimmers on the right hand board and for House and TW out, we used two people; me on the two shafts of the houselights and George on the 4 shafts of the Grand Master.

All the battens and No 1 LX bar were on Croydon No1 winches, lots of turns to wind in and out and in my day, except for summer show, panto and some very cheap tours (D.C. Weldon comes to mind) the battens were wound out to the grid with all frames removed. We also carried about 8 lamp lacquer colours for Frith Banbury who George hated with a passion.

3 focus spots per perch and 12 focus mirror spots on bar 1 and that was your new 1950s rig.

 

THE BEAST IN 1978.

The Grand MasterThis is just over half the Major Grand Master and a lovely board it was too.

To the right of the board under the window was the Ballast board which allowed 6 of the dips to selectively have ballast (loading nowadays) added in 250 watts at a time by switching in circuit purpose built wood / brass battens of lamps in rows under the stage in the ballast room. A lamp check of the ballast room was undertaken every week. In a playhouse like the royal, the practicals were sometimes the biggest LX get in of gear you had.

You can also see where we would hand operate the top four shafts and foot operate the bottom four. George used to have the likes of me clean this off weekly, after a greasing session in the rear of the board. Occasionally, he would turn off the power! Soft hearted was George. Actually, he was and his wife made me sandwiches every night for the interval, just after I had got George his Bottle of Light and a cider for me from the Gulp Bar.

The Major sign lit up in the best tradition of these things and (on the top of the FOH / FLOAT / No 1 BAR side) and the board was supplied with two bulldog clips for the plots, Right hand plot and left hand plot. The position you were at in the plot was kept by a spring loaded ladies hair grip. Unused Show Cards from last week were used for plotting and it was my job to draw the lines on them. I don’t think we ever blew a fuse but spare 15A fuse wire was in the desk at the side of the ash tray. Ray Girling’s whisky bottle will be in the chair, left in front of the House Light bracket handle board. Titled Main Electrolier, Rear Electrolier 1, Rear Electrolier 2, Front Electrolier 3, Front electrolier 4, Gallery, Under Gallery, Under Dress Circle, Under Royal Circle, Stalls, Bars, Nooks and Crannys.

The text and photographs in this section were kindly sent in by Stephen Holroyd, who credits himself as the 'one time slave of the Royal.'